Medicinal properties of Cordyceps
Víctor Blasco, PhD in Chemistry. Specialist in Medicinal Chemistry.
What is Cordyceps?
Fungi are a type of eukaryotic organism that appeared on earth around 300 million years ago, being one of the first forms that inhabited this planet. Since humans discovered their multiple properties, their destiny has been linked to the development of civilization.
Among their main applications we can find different uses in the fields of medicine, the food industry, agriculture, and even in the textile industry.  In all these fields, fungi have played an important role and have led to many advances in these areas. The discovery of antibiotics (Penicillium Notatum), the development of fermentation processes (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), the decontamination of agricultural soils or the decolourisation of industrial dyes are just a few examples.
In particular, in the field of medicine, there is currently an enormous interest in these organisms by the scientific community. This is reflected in a growing number of publications on properties that can be of great benefit to people’s health, well-being and quality of life. New scientific evidence confirms the benefits of the use of therapeutic mushrooms for the treatment of various pathologies, which have been used since ancient times in traditional medicine.
In this case, we will focus on the Cordyceps Sinensis mushroom, one of the most renowned medicinal mushrooms in Asian medicine. It rose to fame in the 1990s as a legal doping product that many Chinese athletes took because of its energizing properties.
It is a parasitic, entomopathogenic fungus that grows mainly on the Tibetan plateau and in the nearby Himalayan regions (Bhutan, China and Nepal). ). Its presence is limited to between 3,000 and 5,000 metres above sea level, which is why it was initially discovered by the shepherds of that territory. The fungus invades a caterpillar during the winter and feeds on it like a parasite, until, in summer, the caterpillar dies and the fungus takes root in the mountain grasses. It is through this process that it is thought to acquire its nutritional and energetic properties.
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Cordyceps Sinensis is considered an adaptogenic fungus that helps the body to adapt better to certain circumstances, with multiple applications. It is valued for its antioxidant, energising and aphrodisiac properties ,as well as having an important immunomodulatory effect and protecting the kidneys and liver . In addition to these, it is also attributed with anti-tumour and anti-diabetic properties. 
In terms of its chemical composition, it contains a lot of active biomolecules which give it the properties described above. It is composed of beta-glucans, ergosterol (provitamin D2), essential amino acids, linoleic and linolenic acid and a large amount of vitamins and minerals.
It also has a high content of cordycepin, cordycepic acid and adenosine, which are the main active ingredients in Cordyceps.
Firstly, it is worth mentioning that this mushroom has a significant energizing effect, capable of combating chronic fatigue and exhaustion, thus improving the stamina and vitality of individuals.  This is mainly because it stimulates ATP production and promotes oxygen use, increasing muscle power and considerably reducing recovery time. In addition, it shows a significant antioxidant effect, allowing the elimination of free radicals (ROS) from the body, and thus helping to alleviate muscle fatigue. 
This species is often referred to as Tibetan Viagra or Himalayan Viagra. This is because it promotes reproductive health and libido in both men and women. It has therefore been commonly used in traditional medicine as a sexual invigorator and fertility enhancer. 
In addition to enhancing sexual activity, Cordyceps is able to repair impaired reproductive function. These effects are related to the increased release of testosterone into the plasma via a signalling pathway involving protein kinase A and cAMP  which, at the same time, promotes relaxation of blood vessels.
Moreover, like other medicinal mushrooms, it also shows a remarkable immunomodulatory effect, capable of acting both as an immune system enhancer and suppressor. . In conjunction with this, it also has an anti-inflammatory effect.
In terms of its boosting capacity, Cordyceps Sinensis promotes the stimulation of macrophages and natural killers, improving the process of phagocytosis, which helps to combat various types of infection, especially respiratory infections and in the fight against cancer. 
Due to its inhibitory effect, it can also be used for the treatment of autoimmune diseases (Lupus) or as an immunosuppressive agent to prevent rejection after organ transplantation. 
Finally, it is interesting to note its action as a renal and hepatic protector. On the one hand, C. sinensis has been used to treat kidney diseases such as nephritis or kidney failure, significantly improving the function of these organs thanks to its anti-apoptotic and anti-inflammatory properties. Another mechanism by which this fungus protects the kidney is its inhibitory effect on mesangial cell proliferation.  In addition, it has been shown to promote kidney function in patients with chronic renal failure by decreasing urea and serum creatinine. 
On the other hand, it has also been used for the treatment of chronic hepatitis and other liver diseases, as it has been observed to improve the immune response to these pathologies and help inhibit liver fibrosis. In addition to these, other mechanisms of action have also been reported to help protect the liver against various diseases and threats. 
Finally, and to underline its multifunctional nature, there are many studies that support the use of Cordyceps Sinensis as a highly effective anti-tumour agent and as a potential anti-diabetic agent for the treatment of diabetes mellitus.
All in all, Cordyceps Sinensis is an adaptogenic mushroom with a multitude of health-promoting properties. It is one of the most recognised natural remedies in traditional Chinese medicine and also one of the most sought-after, both because of its scarcity and the difficulty of harvesting it, and because of its enormous applications. It is known for its energising, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which is why it is often recommended in sports. It has also been studied for its invigorating and aphrodisiac action, which, as well as increasing sexual libido, helps to improve reproductive health. These are some of its most notable properties, although many others have been discovered which make it a miracle worker and make it an ideal complement for strengthening health in general.
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